[DFW] North Main BBQ, Lee's BBQ, Carter's, Walker's
The barbecue quest continues.
North Main BBQ, in Euless, wasn't great, but was pretty good. Brisket had good flavor, but was on the dry side. Ribs were tough, chewy, and gummy from too much mop sauce, though some pieces had good flavor. But their sausage (from Rudolph's) was well above the Dallas average. The staff were all very warm and friendly. Apart from the sausage, I wouldn't rank it in the top tier for DFW.
Lee's BBQ, in Haslet, seemed promising. It's the only Texas Monthly "top 50" spot in the Metroplex that I hadn't been to. The cuts of brisket we had were abysmal--short on flavor and smoke, and about as dry as I've ever had a piece of brisket. Ribs were a little better, but were tough and not very meaty. Their hot links, however, were very enjoyable. They were coarser than most around here, quite peppery, and sufficiently moist. But for the sausage, I probably wouldn't go back. Those links were good enough that I'm willing to give them another try in the hopes that I caught them on a bad day for ribs and brisket.
From what Chowhound John Clark was telling us earlier in the year, Carter's (whose pit is pictured below) was producing some very good barbecue down on Malcolm X Blvd. But they were closed when I went there. And, from the looks of it, they may be permanently closed. I've tried calling the phone number I have for them and get a message saying it's been disconnected or is no longer in service. Does anyone know if they've closed or relocated? Or do they just keep unusual hours?
Since I was already down in the area, I decided to check out Walker's BBQ, further south on Malcolm X. I found their address in the Yellow Pages, but haven't seen any reviews or heard anything about them, making this my first true shot in the dark. Located in a squat brick house with bars over the windows and a small parking lot, it doesn't look like much. Once you go in, you find yourself in a small waiting room with chairs lining the walls. Two sliding glass windows separate the customers from the order-taker, who's in an office-like room on the other side of the wall. Take out only. The menu on the wall tells you that this is East Texas all the way. Hot links, rib sandwiches, wings, et al. There were many items I wanted to try; but, in the interest of science, I stuck with the basic three: brisket, ribs, and sausage.
Opening the styrofoam carry-out box, then the foil wrapping, released the pleasing aroma of meat, smoke, and sauce (which bathed the meats). I knew by looking at it that the brisket would struggle. Looks weren't deceiving. The lean meat had decent flavor, but lacked moistness and was only moderately smoky (hickory). Good sandwich material, but not strong standing alone. Wanting to save the best for last, and thinking ribs would be Walker's strength, I set into the sausage. I was flabbergasted. This sausage was exceptional. That clean break of tooth through casing, the juiciness, the coarser, meatier texture, the blend of seasonings (with noticeable garlic accent)...I haven't had sausage this good outside of Central Texas. They don't stuff their own. And they won't tell me who the supplier is. But that's okay by me, as long as they can keep getting it from wherever they get it. They could perhaps lay a little more smoke on the links. But, other than that minor quibble, I have no complaints with the sausage. As for the ribs, they weren't quite the revelation the sausage was. But they were still very good. Disciples of the Germanic/Czech incarnation of Texas barbecue might balk at the ribs' tenderness and abundant sauce. But if you're open (as am I) to the black-influenced East Texas style, this is good stuff. Meaty, fall-off-the-bone tender (since every little rib wants to grow up to be a rib sandwich), and with a sweet pork flavor. As with the sausage, the ribs were not quite as smoky as I might like; but they're true to their tradition. Walker's far exceeded my limited expectations. I can't wait to go back for more.
This turned out to be "sausage week." While Walker's stood out as the best, the links at both North Main BBQ and Lee's were well above the DFW average. Apart from the good East Texas ribs at Walker's, no other meat we sampled distinguished itself.
For more details and pictures, see the link below.
Try Mom's BBQ just east of I-35 in FW for great soul food barbecue/ Some of the best ribs, brisket and hot links I've ever tasted, plus fantastic pinto beans. Tiny place, though. Maybe 5 tables. Most people get take-out. They use oak and pecan wood, I think.
I've had good barbecued short tibs at South Dallas Cafe close by Fair Park, too.
Texas Pit barbecue in Saginaw is worth the drive. So is David's in Arlington - I think there is some Sonny Bryan's connection at David's.
Old man Carter died about a yr or two ago, and when he went, so did his longtime BBQ joint. I had eaten there over 30 some years, back when he still had a steam-table cafeteria line going on at lunch. His brisket was awfully fat, and they bathed it all in too much (and too sweet) sauce, with a few slices of white bread thrown in on top...but there was just something magic about it, that kept drawing me back at least a few times a year. They also had some great single size Sweet Potatoe Pies. All served to you by the grumpiest old lady on the face of this earth. I'll miss all of it, even her snarling mug.
OK... time for a little Schoolin...
To truly enjoy the North Main BBQ experience, you have to be "in the know." You can't just pick off the bottom of the bucket of the ribs and expect to find the good stuff. go in, ask the nice man to cut you some "Sauce & Toss" or some "Humpbacks." Both of these are the premium ribs that usually aren't in the tin, because they're put out by request only. Trust me, it makes all the difference in the world. The Sauce & Toss are phenomenal! The Humpbacks are very good as well, and have more meat on them. The Sauce & Toss are smoked 32 hours and are basted with BBQ sauce during the last hour or so. They arrive with a beautiful reddish glaze and a flavor and tenderness that can't be beat. THAT's what Ray and his dad Hubert got their awards for. Oh, and the chicken is tasty as well.
You write, "To truly enjoy the North Main BBQ experience, you have to be 'in the know.'"
My preference is for barbecue places that serve great barbecue to everyone, rather than just the customers who happen to know the secret handshake. But if knowing the right catch phrases will improve my experience at North Main, I'm glad to know it and thank you for the information.
You write, "You can't just pick off the bottom of the bucket of the ribs and expect to find the good stuff."
I didn't expect to find the best stuff under the heat lamps in the cafeteria-style aluminum bins (though that's what most of the customers seemed to be feeding on). That's why I ordered by the pound, after (1) asking the cashier what they did best and (2) having the owner take me around back for a tour of the pits (tilted towards Southern Pride gas rigs). I sent all the signals that I was a customer who cared about quality.
I haven't dismissed North Main as a bad barbecue joint. I always qualify my reports, recognizing the impossibility of judging a place on the basis of a particular cut of meat in a single visit. I've heard positive reports about North Main, including a couple from people whose judgment I trust. Maybe they were having an off night, when I was there. Or maybe they decided against giving me good ribs because I failed to say "Sauce & Toss." But I went in there asking and hoping for their best work and what I got (pictured below) wasn't great.
Thanks for the tips. Perhaps I'll have better luck in the future.
Don't know if you're taking requests, but there are a few places I haven't been but am intending to try. I only get to Dallas a couple of times a year, so it takes me a while to work my way through the bbq joints.
Ever been to these?
Sammy Walker's in Rowlett(serves V & V sausage from Flatonia according to Guidelive)
Randy White's Hall of Fame in Frisco
Smokin Tom's in Richardson
Dunno if any of them are any good, but they ended up on my list of possiblities for one reason or another.
Shame about Carter's. Also you are THE MAN. Looking for good barbecue around here is a thankless, daunting task and I applaud your effort.
I was very disappointed with North Main in Euless, and that guy has a bunch of trophies from some of the big contests! They didn't even take the connective tissue off the ribs, yech.
That photo of Lee's brisket is nothing like the brisket I had there. Agree with you that what they gave you looks dismal, and I'll take your word for it on the taste & texture. At least you hit it good with the hot links; I really enjoyed those, too.
Since you're trying to hit some of the smaller, lesser known places, you may want to give Longoria's in Everman a shot. Longoria's uses oak. They weren't totally on the mark the day I was there, but they appear to be making an effort. Ribs and brisket were a little dry on my visit but well flavored. Sausage there is different enough to be worth trying although it had some shortcomings to my tastes. Excellent pinto beans and ranch beans. Skip the mushy baked "fries". I could imagine the place being pretty good on a good day...
YIKES!! If that photo is of a pit that actually cooks food for humans, I can see why the place is CLOSED. The Dallas Health Dept. lets a lot of stuff go, but wow, that's truly horrific looking. Don't think burning beer cans and trash would add much to the wood smoke flavor. Sorry you have to go to so much effort to locate good BBQ up there in North Texas. I guess those of us in Central Texas should thank our lucky BBQ stars every night!